When you search the term “Qatar FIFA controversy”, the first thing that appears is the criticism FIFA faced for holding the latest World Cup in a country where homosexuality is illegal.
Many people, me included, go to Twitter for their news, and saw many stories criticising both the ban and FIFA’s decision. There were also many stories of people going to Qatar wearing t-shirts showing their support for homosexuality.
However, what you would not have seen much coverage of was the name Eden.
Eden was the name of a transgender woman from Saudi Arabia, who recently died by suicide.
To be fair, Qatar does have many problems. And one could have done without the World Cup being held there. For starters, they hired 30,000 South Asian labourers after they won the World Cup bid back in 2010. Between that and 2022, it is alleged that more than 6,500 South Asian workers have died in World Cup-related work.
These numbers were revealed by India, Bangladesh and Nepal. Pakistan also recorded an additional 824 workers. These numbers do not include those from the Philippines and Kenya.
Meanwhile, the Qatari government only recorded 37 deaths. When confronted with the actual numbers, they expressed regret concerning the deaths, but awarded no compensation to the families affected. On the flip side, many of the South Asian workers gave up to £1,000 to get the job.
Back in 2016, Amnesty International accused the Qatari government of engaging in exploitative labour practices in their World Cup preparations. Workers were forced to live in cramped housing, were forced to pay recruitment fees, and had their wages held back.
Little to no noise was made then. Surprisingly, little or no noise was made even during the World Cup. Some articles did appear discussing it, detailing facts and figures. However, in wider discourse, on social media, this was nowhere to be found. All one would hear or see was that Qatar is homophobic.
Even then, the emphasis was on the worry that people travelling to Qatar would not be allowed to be openly gay in Qatar. It never spoke about how Qatari laws that make homosexuality punishable by death affect LGBTQ people in Qatar every day. Not one LGBTQ+ activist or person in Qatar was given a platform or a voice.
One gay Qatari activist living in the US, Dr Naser Mohammad, clarified that non-Qataris would not face prosecution under Qatari law. Only the Qataris would be affected. The Qataris, whom no one seemed to care about.
This becomes a problem when you realise that Qatar has continued to be homophobic even after the World Cup. So have other countries like Saudi Arabia, where Eden was killed, and India, where the government is actively preventing same-sex marriage.
The world has seemed to move on from the real and dangerous consequences people in Qatar continue to face since the World Cup. Almost as if it’s only a problem when the West is involved.